Tuesday, March 31, 2020

One More Before I Go

Oil on Panel, 4 x 4 inches

On March 20th of this year, a small flock of three Cedar Waxwings landed on my pin cherry tree and enjoyed a few berries that had remained on the tree all winter. It was sunny, breezy, and around 25 degrees F. The berries were frozen, but that didn’t stop the birds from eating them. Robins were enjoying them, too, more so during recent cold spells or spring snowstorms when the ground wasn't clear to hunt for worms. Cedar Waxwings enjoy all types of fruit which is their main diet source, but they do eat insects, too. If you want to attract Cedar Waxwings to your yard, plant trees or shrubs that produce fruit. The biggest flock of Cedar Waxwings I’ve ever seen was a flock of at least 32 in the Bailey Tract, Florida in 2012. (photo below)

Cedar Waxwings in the Bailey Tract, Florida, 2012.



Friday, March 20, 2020

Island Gull

Oil on Panel, 4 x 4 inches

     Ring-billed Gulls are one of the most easily identifiable gulls because of the black stripe on their beaks. Personally, my gull identification is not strong, but I keep learning and getting better. I'm sure that if I lived on Lake Superior, which is the closest lake nearest to me, my skills would sharpen in record speed. I never, in a million years, would've thought my warbler identification would be stronger than gulls, but such is the case. Improving upon my knowledge of midwestern gulls is going to be a strong focus going forward this year.
     With recent attention on Covid-19, I feel compelled to say that I was so disheartened to hear of a recent movement to turn on Christmas lights as a gesture of people wanting to feel connected during this time of isolation due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Just when I was thinking birds might get a break from artifical lights during migration since so many business are shortening their hours, now their journey northward might be even more perilous than ever before. This is the absolute worst time to add more lights to the evening skies, outside of the fall migration. Birds' attraction to artifical lights is called ALAN (artificial lights at night), and I wrote about it in my September 19, 2019 post. Please, humans. We are facing a pandemic. There are other ways to feel connected instead of turning on Christmas lights outdoors. Keep those lights on the shelves and in their boxes until November and December when birds aren't migrating.



Monday, March 16, 2020

The Moth Hunter

Oil on Panel, 4 x 4 inches

     On August 9, 2019, I observed this female Black and White Warbler on the trunk of a red pine, just moments after it snapped up a white moth in the grass below. If this were a male, its cheeks would have a black patch, and its chin and throat would be black also. These warblers spend their summers throughout much of eastern North America and into Canada after wintering in Florida, Mexico, and South America. They’re one of the first warblers to arrive in Minnesota, and my first sightings of them have been in mid-May in Duluth. If you’re looking for this bird, keep your eyes peeled to tree trunks. Similar to Brown Creepers, this is where they do a lot of their insect hunting. Below is my photo of this same bird with a moth in its beak.


Photo of a female Black and White Warbler with moth




Friday, March 6, 2020

Sweet Magnolia

Oil on Panel, 4 x 4 inches

     This is a painting of a female Magnolia Warbler. 
     Last night, while watching the news, I noticed a flying insect rise from the lampshade across the room. My immediate thought? It was heading my way to bite me. Deciding against running out of the room screaming after losing sight of its location, my second thought turned to springtime and the thawing out of everything. 
     Living in Duluth, Minnesota, I generally don’t see a single insect for a good five months, minus the occasional spider that crawls out of the woodwork every now and then. For that reason, late fall and winter are my favorite times of the year. And with two feet of snow still on the ground, one would think insects would be hanging on hard to winter. But like it or not, they’re starting to emerge. 
      Last week, the first larder beetle of the year made its appearance in my kitchen. Grrrr, I’m not a fan. Generally, it's the biting kind that I don't care for, but warblers, such as this Magnolia Warbler, primarily feed on insects. They need insects to survive. Sounds simple enough. Okay, sure, I love bugs, just as long as they stay away from me. I envy entomologists. If there ever was a profession that is completely opposite of what I’d ever be, it might be that. With every bug I see from now on this spring, I’m going to say out loud (or maybe to myself if there are other people around), “I love you, little bug.” But if it bites me, just remember. Love is a fickle thing. 
     With spring on the cusp of arrival, three cheers to the warbler migration. They’re coming!! Bottoms up everyone. Let the insect feast begin!